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A Surprising Cause of Child Obesity

Too little exercise, too much junk food—most of us know these explanations for childhood obesity. But the amount of sleep your child gets may be just as important, according to a review of studies in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Researchers found that kids who sleep less than the recommended amount at age 2 are more likely to be obese at age 7.

One reason: Fatigue alters the levels of appetite-regulating hormones, which can cause children to eat more, says Shahrad Taheri, M.D., author of the review.

To make sure your child gets all the snoozing she needs:

  • Stick to regular sleep and wake-up times, even on weekends.
  • Create a calming bedtime routine, like a warm bath followed by a book.
  • Limit caffeinated beverages, especially before bed.
  • Keep her room dark and quiet at night, which means no TV.
  • Encourage her to exercise (active kids tend to sleep better)—but not right before heading to bed.
  • Make sure she has enough downtime, since stress can lead to sleep problems.